The Indians’ boys’ ice hockey squad hosted fellow Northford Ice Pavilion tenant Branford on Jan. 20 and notched a 5-3 victory versus its rink rival to improve to 5-1-1. Mike Silengo’s club also moved to 5-0 in SCC/SWC Division II by defeating the Hornets, who won both the conference tournament title the past two seasons. North Haven has its sights set on competing for conference and state crowns this winter, but even with his team’s stellar start, Coach Silengo knows there’s still a long road ahead and that the Indians have to bring their A-game every night if they want to reach the mountaintop.
“Obviously, our goal is to take it to Ingalls Rink [the site of the state final] and it’s reachable if we keep working the way we’re working. My biggest concern is playing a full 45 minutes. We have to come out every game and not wait to step on the gas until the third period because it will bite you in the end,” Coach Silengo said. “You allow teams to hang around and, sooner or later, someone knocks you off. And if we continue to win, the target gets bigger on our back and everybody wants to knock us off. But if we’re focused and everyone comes ready to play from the drop of the puck, we’ll be in good shape.”
Seniors Pasquale Liuzzi and Jason St. Peter each had two goals and two assists against Branford with Liuzzi netting the go-ahead score to snap a 2-2 tie with 5:10 remaining. Silengo said his squad came out a little sloppy and struggled to get the puck out of its defensive zone, which resulted in the Hornets (3-5-1, 1-3-1) taking 40 shots on goal. The good news was that senior goalie Justin Daddio swatted away 37 of those offerings, while North Haven peppered Branford with 47 shots. Daddio was on the team last winter, although this year marks his first as the Indians’ starting keeper after he won the job in the preseason.
“We had no idea who would step up and be the No. 1, but once Justin got it, he hasn’t let it go. He works extremely hard in practice and he’s extremely athletic. Also, when he lets in a goal, he has a short memory, forgets it quick, and gets right back to where we need him to be,” said Silengo. “Against Branford, Justin kept us the game. We gave up too many shots and it could have been a different game if he didn’t play as good as he did.”
Liuzzi scored from Jason St. Peter and JJ Jensen with 46 seconds left in the opening period for a 1-0 lead and that’s the way it stayed through the first two frames. Jensen scored from Alex Cianci to make it 2-0 at the 4:53 mark of the third, but then Branford retaliated with two goals and it was suddenly tied 2-2. However, North Haven was surely in no mood to play overtime as Liuzzi scored from St. Peter and CJ Kenny for a 3-2 lead with just over five minutes left, after which Liuzzi fed St. Peter for a two-goal cushion with 1:59 to go.
“Pasquale got a jump on the defenseman, got a nice pass in our end and was all alone, and picked the right corner and put it in a good spot,” said Silengo on the go-ahead tally.
The Hornets scored just 20 seconds after St. Peter’s insurance marker to cut it to 4-3 before St. Peter buried an empty-netter from Liuzzi to seal the 5-3 victory.
St. Peter captains the Indians with Jensen and defenseman Josh Back. Daddio and Liuzzi are the team’s two other seniors. So far, Coach Silengo said his five seniors are proving the quintessential quintet in terms of setting a template for success that will hopefully carry North Haven to postseason prominence.
“We dump a lot on our seniors,” he said. “We’ve challenged them to carry us, like most high school teams, and they’ve all responded.”
From the Sidelines
North Haven’s top line against Branford consisted of senior center JJ Jensen with senior wings Pasquale Liuzzi and Jason St. Peter. Playing on the second line were sophomore center Jamie Montesi and wingers Mike Gambardella, a junior; and Kyle Spring, a sophomore. The third line featured sophomore center Corey Reilly, sophomore wing Sam Pethick, and freshman wing Dom Biondi. The club’s other forwards are junior Brandon DelVasto, plus freshmen Sean Quinn and David Degrand.
The Indians have four defensemen in senior Josh Back, junior Conor Quinn, and sophomores Alex Cianci and CJ Kenny. Along with senior goalie Justin Daddio, they have three other keepers in juniors John Reilly and sophomores Jeremy Hickcox and Ryan Millea.
Mike Silengo is in his second season as head coach of North Haven boys’ ice hockey and is assisted by his brother Bill Silengo, Marty Harrigan, and volunteer Greg Barbiero. The Silengo siblings and Harrigan all played for the Indians in 1980, when they won the Division II state title by beating Norwalk 4-2. North Haven’s other DII crown came in 2004 with a 3-1 triumph against Hand.